Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 25th June 2021

฿32 to one US Dollar
฿44 to one Pound Sterling
฿38 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.65 THB to one Philippine Peso

Albert

Working in Chachoengsao

Monthly Earnings About 45,000 baht per month

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My full-time salary is 37,500 and then I make another 7-8,000 per month teaching evening classes.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Normally 7,000-15,000 depending on the time of year.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

4,000 baht per month. It is a two-bedroom house that I share with a mate/fellow teacher.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I bought a scooter for 15,000 about a year ago and I'm now happy not to pay rental money every month for someone else's bike. It's only about 150-200 baht per month for petrol. However, add another 200 baht per return minivan trip to Bangkok should we plan a weekend over there every other month or so.

Utility bills

I do enjoy the air-conditioner too much sometimes and I most definitely need to cut back. Electricity can be anything from 1,000 to 2,000 baht per month (shared between two) depending how often I laze on the couch in the middle of a scorching day. Internet is shared and costs me 400 baht / month. I set aside a maximum of 1,500 baht per month for utilities but it rarely gets that much.

Also, not sure if it falls into this category but I also pay 1,600 baht per month for health insurance which covers me internationally.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I love to cook. I spend loads on Thai and Western ingredients. It can easily be between 10,000 and 15,000 per month. That includes dining out in restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

I try to keep the drinking aspect of socialising limited to a maximum of only every other weekend. A proper night out in Chachoengsao would cost me no more than 500 baht whereas in Bangkok it probably would get up to several thousand baht easy. Overall I budget 3,000-6,000 per month for these things but it's getting much less as I am trying to get into some other hobbies besides just boozing with the mates!

Books, computers

Not too much. I have my Xbox live account which is about 250 baht per month which is mostly only activated during the rainy season. I buy the odd game here and there, but the budget for this category never succeeds 500 baht on average

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Its grand! I teach in a fairly relaxed school and love my kids. I teach on average around 3-4 hours per day during school hours. After teaching at this school for a while now (and proving that I am reliable and take the teaching part seriously) I am allowed to come and go as I please. I live super close to school which makes life even easier. Going to hit some golf balls on the driving range, hitting the gym or having a dip in the nearby hotel pool is easy done on a Tuesday between the morning and afternoon class, for example. Sorry, this has become way more than one sentence, but to summarize, life is good!

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Transport, food and also rent if you find the right spot.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In my experience thus far, I would say I can easily survive and even thrive on 45,000 per month. The problem comes when I'm trying to put enough away for flights and visits back home to South Africa - or exploring the rest of the world.

Another chunk of money is needed to put something away for retirement, as it has unfortunately become clear that once you hit the age of 65 as a farang in Thailand, you are not particularly wanted anymore unless you have $$$. (Luckily I have some time yet before that age). However, I would say for where I live, 60K per month would be the bare minimum to cover all those bases.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Albert. Life sounds good - but would be even better if you could hit that 60K target.  You hit on a good point in this survey inasmuch as you've been at the school for a while and you've become 'part of the furniture'. The school management trusts you and you can come and go as you please along as you're on time for your lessons. That's worth its weight in gold because you can slip away to do things like hit the gym or play golf, etc and it all makes for a much happier teacher and a more enjoyable lifestyle compared to someone who has to be on the premises the whole time. 

Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here. 


Kuma

Working in Japan

Monthly Earnings 220,000 Baht (all in)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I teach in a university and earn about 180,000 for my classes. I also do testing on the side (Cambridge Assessment, IELTS etc.) which accounts for the rest.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

These days, I would say in the 50,000 baht range.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

My wife and I rent a house in the 'burbs for 30,000 baht. It's a nice quiet place with a little garden, elderly neighbors, an oasis from the city. I don't mind the drive to work at all!

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

My car is paid up but other things are expensive here. Car tax and mandatory insurance etc. is about 5,000 a month. I also spend about 5,000 on gas and another 5,000 on highway tolls.

Utility bills

See above re expensive! Electricity about 4,000 baht, gas the same, water about 1,000, communications (cell phone plans, home wifi) about 7,000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket bills come to about 40,000 baht for the two of us. We don't do a lot of restaurants but we do takeout once or twice a week, so add about 5,000 for that. I usually eat out for lunch too so another 5,000 for lunches.

Nightlife and drinking

At my age? No thanks. I can hear my coworkers whine and moan at work for free; why would I spend money to hear them do it at night? I probably spend about 5,000 baht for wine and beer to enjoy at home.

Books, computers

My Kindle is my friend so less than a thousand here. I included the cell phone and internet hookup costs above.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

We live well, don't have to worry about money at all (no kids at home anymore), and can travel when we want (my schedule has 4 months free time built in) - or could until the 'Rona'.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

In Japan? You gotta be kidding.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In my opinion, a couple with no kids needs at least 100,000 baht a month to live well. A single person with no obligations could get by on 70,000 if they watch their wallet.

Phil's analysis and comment

Back in the early 90's (when I started teaching in Thailand) Japan was always the promised land, the land of milk and honey, the country you moved to if you were a serious teacher who wanted to make some serious dough. Countries like China and Vietnam (which are now seen as more lucrative alternatives to Thailand) rarely got a mention. But over the years, Japan's popularity as a TEFL destination seems to have diminished considerably. 

It's always had that reputation as an expensive place to live and there are some big numbers in Kuma's survey. North of 40,000 baht a month for rent and utilities. 15,000 baht a month to run a car. 40,000 baht for supermarket bills for a couple, ouch!  

Still, 220,000 is a decent salary and you do well to save about 25% of it.   


Patrizio

Working in Hong Kong

Monthly Earnings 275,000 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My full-time salary is 200,000 baht, which is a huge step up from what I used to make in a small international school in Bangkok. I also have a 75K housing allowance.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 120K every month. My wife has a steady income stream of 50K a month and saves all of that. Most of my end-of-year bonus, which is 375K, I save as well.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

Hong Kong is very expensive to rent. My wife and I rent a small two-bedroom apartment close to the school. I technically don't pay for this at all, because the cost (60K) fits well into my housing allowance (75K)

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

Hong Kong has fantastic public transportation (and infrastructure), which is a big thing after coming from Bangkok. I think we spend about 3,500 bath a month on this

Utility bills

My internet, phone, electricity, and water all add up to about 10K, which I pay with the leftovers from my housing allowance

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Restaurants can be very expensive. My wife and I are absolute foodies, though she now cooks 6 days a week. We spend about 20K a month on groceries. We go out to restaurants once a week and we spend about 30K on this.

Nightlife and drinking

I used to go out quite a lot when I lived in Bangkok, but now that I am married with a rapidly developing career, I find that I prefer staying in much more. I also limit myself to only drinking at home once a month. So I guess I might spend about 1-2K a month on this.

Books, computers

I own a very good computer which my job bought for me. I also have an Xbox, for which I probably pay about 500 baht a month. I am an avid reader but I download my books for free.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I think my wife and I have an extraordinarily high standard of living. We do not have to really think about any expenses, but we are both very sensible with money and like to save. We can afford to do the things we like and still save more money yearly than most people back in Europe would earn in that same time-frame.

Hong Kong is such an amazing location to live, especially after being exposed to blatant Thai discrimination and racism towards foreigners. In Hong Kong, every person is what he or she brings to the table. We have access to completely free, top quality healthcare within a city state that has very sound infrastructure. On top of that, Hong Kong isn't nearly as expensive as some people think. It is certainly not that much more expensive than Bangkok.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Transportation is something I absolutely fell in love with. Being able to traverse the city in less than 30 minutes for bottom barrel costs is something you could only dream of in Bangkok.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

That is a tough one to answer and it all depends on your priorities. If your employer pays for your housing, then you would live pretty well on 85K.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Patrizio. It sounds like you have a wonderful lifestyle out there in Hong Kong, a wonderful place I've been lucky to visit at least seven or eight times. As you say, the public transportation system is second to none. 

One thing that did shock me about your figures was dropping 30K a month on restaurants and you only dine out once a week. Those must be some pretty swanky joints you eat at!  


Chantelle

Working in Ban Chang, Rayong

Monthly Earnings 71,500 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I get a 61,500 baht baseline salary and then around 10k baht for extra classes. (45 minutes x 4 days a week)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 30,000 baht each month. This is after I have deducted my vacation costs and spending money.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a studio apartment, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, with a modern kitchenette (induction stove, small oven and washing machine). This costs 7,000 baht a month. We also have a 3-bedroom house that we rent out for 15K a month.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I rent a bike for 2,500 a month and fuel costs about 250 depending on how much I ride around. I avoid paying for private taxis by getting lifts from friends with cars.

Utility bills

Utility bills are usually under 1,000 baht a month but it has been higher during the summer months due to increased use of the air-conditioning.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Groceries are around 1,000 baht per week and I enjoy ordering from restaurants. I would say I spend around 600 baht a week on restaurants take-aways. I have to confess that I enjoy chocolate so a big portion of my spending is on that. I also get a free lunch at school so I do not have to cook much. I also prefer Western food that you can buy at Tops or our local Expat shop.

Nightlife and drinking

My town doesn't have a nightlife scene and I don't drink so no money there.

Books, computers

I download pdf books so no expense there and I use my old laptop.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I think I live very comfortably. I take vacations when Covid allows it during holidays and I could easily afford a car and a bigger flat if I wanted to.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

There are quite a few things that are more expensive than back home but I would say your day-to-day living costs are the real bargain if you don't spend money on luxury items like a car.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I don't hold back on spending my money and I get by with around 25k to 30k a month. This covers my living expenses and my shopping, travelling and restaurant meals.

Phil's analysis and comment

In what sounds like a very peaceful town, 71,000 baht must feel like a small fortune so no surprise you are able to live as well as you do. You've got a nice passive income of 15,000 baht from the house rental too. By my reckoning, you're saving around half a milllion baht a year so I bet you've built up a good safety net. 


Steve

Working in Nakhon Ratchisima (Khorat)

Monthly Earnings 30,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work for a medium-sized Thai school and my full-time salary is 30,000. I used to make another 5,000 - 10,000 baht a month working a couple of nights a week at a private language school but due to the Co-vid situation, there hasn't been any work there for months! I was pretty low down the pecking order so I tended to get the evening scraps and the students nobody else wanted. However, so many students cancelled their courses, there isn't enough work to go around.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Very little. I might stash away 5,000 in a good month but that's quite rare.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I've moved in with my Thai girlfriend to try and cut down on the expenses. I was living in a nice studio apartment and paying around 6,000 a month plus bills but that's down to 3,000 now I've moved in with her. It's not an ideal situation though; two people living in a tiny studio apartment can get ridiculous, especially as I'm a big guy anyway. Plus I hate living 'the Thai way' - cooking food on a tiny balcony, showering with cold water, etc.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I have a small motorcycle, which you really need to have to get around Khorat. We live in the city centre and my school is about five kilometres away. Public transportation isn't really an option. I suppose gas costs a few hundred baht a month.

Utility bills

No more than a few hundred baht a month for electricity and water. We do have air-con but don't switch it on much. My girlfriend says the air-con gives her a cold so whenever I'm home during the hot season, I strip down to my boxer shorts and tough it out.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Being a person of ample proportions, I do like my grub! I spend easily 10,000 baht a month on meals out and supermarket shopping for the two of us although most of our eating is done at moderately priced Thai restaurants. Khorat has plenty of opportunities for a Western food splurge but they're generally too expensive for me. I can't afford to drop 700-1,000 baht on a meal for two.

Nightlife and drinking

Gave that stuff up several years ago. It's a shame really because Khorat is a terrific night-time city with plenty going on. Oh to be a single fella again because I sometimes overhear other male teachers discussing going out on the Friday night lash and do feel as if I'm missing out.

Books, computers

Naaah. Nothing to see here. Even my smartphone is about four years old. Hopefully it won't conk out before I get to the end of this survey.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Khorat is a cheaper city to live in than Bangkok of course but only just. It's got all the opportunities to spend money that the capital has, so 30,000 baht a month isn't really enough. That extra 10,000 baht I used to make from teaching in the evenings made all the difference.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Running a motorcycle is cheap (both for gas and repairs) and eating out at those moderately priced Thai restaurants (hole-in-the-wall places) only comes to a couple of hundred baht for two people.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I suppose at a push I could live on 20-25K if I were a single fella but that would be just an existence. I dream of making 50-60K a month; that would be nice! It would allow me to go home and see my family because I haven't been home for several years.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Steve for another brutally honest cost of living survey. It's important to get a balance in these surveys and the teachers 'surviving' on 30,000 are just as essential to hear from as the international school teachers raking in the big bucks. As far as your survey goes, Steve, I've said it many times before - that extra 10,000 baht can make all the difference! Hopefully the Co-vid situation will improve in the not-too-distant future and you can get back to doing some evening work. Hang on in there! 

Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here. 


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